There are thousands of time-management and productivity tips and systems out there, but with so much information available, it’s hard to know what works and what doesn’t.
What can you do today that will boost your productivity throughout the year ahead?
We at RAIN Group have studied productivity for years and successfully put the lessons learned into practice at our own firm.
If you want to be at your productive best in 2019—and beyond—here are 28 of the best productivity hacks that you can start applying right now to boost your work results tremendously.
1. Talk to yourself: Research has shown that “inner speech” averages around 4,000 words per minute. Make sure these words to yourself are positive, reinforcing that you can do and achieve what you set out to.
2. Say “3… 2… 1… Go!”: Having a hard time getting started? Count down from three and just start. The longer you wait, the more you’ll talk yourself out of doing the task.
3. Say “When I, Then I.”: Want to do something? Plan it out for a specific time. For example, “When I get to work, I will start immediately on my greatest-impact activity.” Being specific about your implementation intention drives goal attainment. Then…
4. Ask, “Will I?”: Telling yourself to do something at a specific time helps. Asking yourself whether you will do it makes the likelihood that you will that much stronger.
5. Choose your New Reality: If you want something to change, you need to define it. You need to have a vision of where you’re headed. This is your New Reality. Once you do, write it down. Knowing where you’re headed and what you want to achieve will help keep you motivated.
6. Plan actions weekly: Write down what you want to work on and what you want to achieve each week. We spend our time more wisely when we plan. Then…
7. Track progress weekly: It’s not enough to just plan. Working with an accountability partner each week to plan and track your progress can make you close to twice as likely to get the plan done.
8. Calendar Investment TIME: If something’s important, block off time on your calendar to work on it (more below).
9. Change your environment: Do you have a cluttered desk? Is the person next to you on the phone all day with their mom? Do you have only one computer screen? Your environment can either enhance or detract your productivity. Design it for optimal focus and action.
10. Make your morning routine sacred: A consistent morning routine, where you focus on your goals and greatest impact activity (GIA) for the day, can get you started on the right foot. When you begin working on your most important task of the day, you’re more likely to get it done and make progress on the things you want to do. It works for Richard Branson.
11. Increase Investment TIME: One of the 3 Keys of Extreme Productivity is “Control your TIME.” Think of time in four categories: Treasured, Investment, Mandatory, and Empty. Investment is the time that gets you outsized return. If your time isn’t Investment TIME, it’s probably not productive.
12. Put your GIA first: Your greatest impact activity is the one thing you should do today that will get you the greatest return. Begin your day focusing on your GIA, and work on it first. Otherwise, your day will get hijacked by other, less important tasks, and if you get to your GIA, you won’t have the mental energy to give it your best.
13. Track your TIME: One of the keys to becoming more productive is truly understanding where you’re spending your time. Don’t just track your time, obsessively track your time. Most people overestimate the time they spend working by 5-10%, and they have quite inaccurate views of what they spend their time on.
14. Do less: If it’s not gung-ho, it’s no. People have too many priorities on their to-do list. Do less, and you’ll get it done much better and faster says research from long ago, and just recently. When evaluating priorities, tell yourself, “If it’s not gung-ho, it’s no.”
15. Derail the derailers: There’s a neverending stream of distractions derailing your work every day. It averages 23 minutes, 15 seconds to get back to task from many distractions. Don’t let derailers derail your day.
16. Keep a to-don’t list: Almost everyone has a to-do list. We all need a to-don’t list, too. What are you not going to do? It’s powerful to write down what you’re not focusing on (at least not right now). And by keeping it on a list, it relieves the mental tax of not worrying you forgot what you said “no” to.
17. Free yourself from the shackles of alerts: Turn off alerts to your email, cell phone, messaging, or any other notification that might interrupt you. A Deloitte study found that people checked their phones 47 times a day, on average. We have messages coming at us all day, and we’re constantly checking to see what we might have missed.
18. Signal “Do Not Disturb”: Need to focus on a project? Turn on your out-of-office assistant, close your door, or put on your headphones. Signal “do not disturb” and turn distractions away.
19. Be someplace else: If people can’t find you, they can’t interrupt you. Try working in a small conference room, from home, in a café, or in a different office.
20. Establish a daily routine of obsessed, planned sprints: Sprinting is a form of time-boxing where you focus on one task for 20 minutes without any distractions or interruptions.
21. Do four successive sprints (a relay): While one sprint is 20 minutes, a relay is four successive sprints. Relays allow you to get in the flow of work where you become hyper-focused and extremely productive.
22. Sprint through distractions: If you get distracted or something pops into your head while sprinting, don’t switch tasks. Even small distractions derail productivity. Instead, write it down and stay focused on the task at hand.
23. Take care of your mind: If you’re not in a good place mentally, it’s difficult to focus on work. Practice positive self-talk and mindfulness.
24. Attend to your body: You can maximize your energy by eating and sleeping well and being active. Even taking a 10-minute walk can boost energy for up to two hours.
25. Refresh your spirit: Refill your bucket by taking treasured TIME, do what you love, and follow your spiritual path.
26. Say “3… 2… 1… Stop!”: Practice your Free Will Not: Hack No. 6 is to say “3… 2… 1… Go!” to get started. However, if you’re in a sprint and get the urge to check your email or another distraction comes up, say “3… 2… 1… Stop!” It’s been proven we can veto any activity we don’t want to be doing.
27. Make micro changes: Does sprinting for 20 minutes feel like too much? Start with five minutes. Can’t turn off all of your notifications? Start with one. Whatever change you’re trying to make, if it feels like too much too fast, start with something smaller and build up to it.
28. Sign a commitment contract: If you’re truly committed to certain activities and change, why not sign a contract with yourself? And if you’re really serious, you can put your money where your mouth and use Stickk.
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